To identify the Best Colleges in Oregon for 2017-2018 we averaged the latest results from the most respected college ranking systems with thousands of real student review scores from around the web to produce a unique College Consensus rating for each school. You won’t find a more comprehensive ranking of the top colleges and universities in Oregon anywhere. Read more about our rankings methodology and sources at our about page.
Colleges & Universities in Oregon
Oregon is known far and wide as one of the most progressive, environmentally-conscious, and innovative, entrepreneurial states in the union, due in no small part to a wealth of rigorous, selective, and challenging higher education institutions. From public flagship research schools like the University of Oregon 64 , to private intellectual havens like Reed College 73 , the best colleges in Oregon have one thing in common – they provide students from Oregon and beyond with the tools to take on leadership positions in industry, government, education, and culture. In particular, Oregon’s tech sector is one of the most advanced and attractive in the US, making a major impact on Oregon’s economy and extending the state’s influence nationally and internationally.
In recent years Oregon has become one of the nation’s Top Moving Destinations, with as many a two families moving to Oregon as move away; Oregon’s population has been booming for many years, with professionals and workers drawn to the opportunities that Silicon Forest and the state offers. With a larger population has come more diversity, as a quarter of Oregon’s population is now made up of minority citizens. Oregon’s higher education complex has reacted with unprecedented diversity initiatives, living up to Oregon’s reputation as a welcoming, open culture.
These are the top Consensus colleges for the Beaver State.
Reed College is, quite simply, one of the most prestigious small liberal arts colleges in the US. Founded in 1908, Reed is named for the philanthropic entrepreneurs Simeon and Amanda Reed, who financed the institute to provide educational opportunity for the people of Portland. Reed has long been known for its innovative approach to education, as well as for its political liberalism and social activism, qualities that had a major impact on the culture and society of Portland over the next century. While Reed has refused to participate in college rankings since 1995, the college is still recognized as a New Ivy and one of the finest in the world.
Reed is known for its highly flexible, often improvisational curriculum; all students are required to take a freshman humanities survey and complete a senior thesis over the last two semesters of their career, but otherwise, students craft their curriculum according to their interests. The student/faculty ratio is 10:1, providing much opportunity for mentorship; most courses are taught in a discussion style, with professors acting as guides and facilitators; and narrative evaluations are used in place of grades. In turn, Reed has one of the highest proportions of students who go on to doctorate degrees, and more Rhodes Scholars, MacArthur fellows, and Fulbright Scholars than nearly any other college of its kind, a foolproof sign that Reed is doing education right.
University of Portland
The sister institution to the University of Notre Dame, the University of Portland was founded in 1901 by the Congregation of the Holy Cross, a Catholic order of priests and monks devoted to education and missions. Originally named Columbia University (just as the state of Washington was nearly named Columbia), the University of Portland was built on a bluff overlooking the Willamette River and dedicated to meeting the educational and community needs of Portland. UP is recognized as one of the top 10 regional institutions in the West by U.S. News & World Report, and has more Fulbright Scholars than any other university in its class.
As a Catholic university, the University of Portland is known for its educational rigor, with a focus on the traditional liberal arts values of critical thinking, analysis, and reflection, as well as ethical and moral guidelines. UP is home to some of the oldest and most prestigious professional schools in the region, including the Pamplin School of Business Administration, the Shiley School of Engineering, and the School of Nursing. The University of Portland is also a crucial presence in the Portland area, as one of the largest companies in the region, and a major contributor to Portland’s economy.
Warner Pacific University
A small, private Church of God-affiliated institution, Warner Pacific University brings traditional liberal arts education and Christ-centered instruction to urban Portland, OR. Founded in 1937, Warner Pacific was originally a bible college in Spokane, moving to Portland in 1940 to expand its opportunities for outreach. In keeping with the Church of God’s values and traditions, the student body of WPU is highly diverse, with more than half of the student body identifying as coming from a minority group, while the tuition is kept far lower than comparable schools in the region to make a Warner Pacific education more accessible to more students.
Warner Pacific’s curriculum is largely tied to interdisciplinary, liberal arts education, combining the humanities and natural sciences with Christian faith and concern for the needs of the contemporary urban environment. WPU’s foundational courses are united by a unique emphasis on paradox, encouraging students to wrestle with complex questions within the context of Biblical faith and critical thinking. Student take part in extensive community activities in the interest of developing servant leaders, and WPU’s excellent student support ensures graduates will find their way.
Founded in 1842, alongside the city of Salem itself, Willamette University is the oldest institution of higher education in the western United States, dating back to the Methodist Mission that preceded regular settlement of the region. Willamette opened the first medical school and the first law school in the region, laying the foundation for Salem’s status as the capital city of Oregon, and continues to educate and develop Oregon’s leadership today. Willamette is ranked in the top liberal arts colleges in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.
Willamette University has been named one of the 40 colleges that change lives, a reflection of its educational excellence, student support, and power to drive social mobility for its graduates. Part of Willamette’s influence is its location in the capital city of Salem, where students have access to internships and employment in some of the most important areas of government and business. Part is Willamette’s faculty, who provide excellent mentorship with a 10:1 student/faculty ratio. And part is the heritage of intellectual exploration and encouragement that gives every student assurance of the value in a Willamette degree.
Pacific University is a small, but growing, private liberal arts institution in Forest Grove, OR, a suburb of Portland. While Pacific University was founded by Presbyterian and Congregationalist settlers in 1849, before Oregon was even an officially recognized territory, today it is an independent institution, though it retains ties to the United Church of Christ Council for Higher Education due to its heritage. Regularly ranked among the top regional colleges in the west, Pacific is known for excellent undergraduate education and top-notch graduate professional programs.
As a liberal arts institution, Pacific University has built up a diverse student and faculty body and a curriculum defined by personal education, mentorship, and student support. From the foundational humanities and science courses to a senior thesis project guided by a faculty member, Pacific students are engaged in critical thought, cultural and textual analysis, and undergraduate research. Community service is also central to Pacific’s mission, while the university’s proximity to Portland gives students important access to service, internships, and, eventually, successful employment.
Lewis & Clark College
Lewis & Clark College is a small, private liberal arts institution in Portland, OR. Originally located in Albany, OR, Lewis & Clark was founded in 1867, moving to Portland in 1938. Ranked by U.S. News & World Report as a top 100 national liberal arts institution, and by Kiplinger’s as a best value, Lewis & Clark College is committed to the tradition of liberal arts education, informed by a world-changing, activist spirit. Lewis & Clark is particularly known for their pioneering environmental law program.
With their deep connection to Portland, a city known for its activism and community engagement, Lewis & Clark’s curriculum is particularly oriented toward service learning and real-world, applicable research, built on the foundation of learning, analysis, and discussion that characterized liberal arts education. Lewis & Clark’s engagement takes place around the world as well, with more than three dozen study-abroad opportunities, including Cuba; more than 60% of Lewis & Clark students study abroad, explorers like the college’s namesakes.
Linfield College-McMinnville Campus
Founded in 1858 by the Baptist church, Linfield College is a small, private liberal arts college in McMinnville, OR (with a nursing campus in Portland as well). While Linfield retains an historic affiliation with the American Baptist Church, it is an independent institution known for its educational excellence. Linfield has regularly been cited as one of the top regional institutions in the West by U.S. News & World Report and the Princeton Review, while Linfield’s high number of Fulbright Scholars has been noted by The Chronicle of Higher Education. Linfield is particularly respected for the Linfield-Good Samaritan School of Nursing, one of the region’s most prestigious nursing schools.
Linfield is small, but diverse, with more than a third of the student body made up of young men and women from minority groups. With a mission to encourage diverse thought, conscience, and intellectual exploration, Linfield intends to develop graduates who will take on leadership roles in their professions and communities, steeped in both theoretical and practical understanding. In that interest, Linfield has also stepped up online programs and continuing education, meeting the needs of non-traditional and working adult students.
George Fox University
Founded in 1885 as a Quaker school, George Fox University is noted as Oregon’s most prestigious Christian college, ranked as a top-tier regional institution by U.S. News & World Report and as a best value by the Princeton Review. Forbes has named George Fox one of the top 10 religious colleges in the nation, while Money magazine and Washington Monthly include George Fox among the best values in Christian universities. More than 40 majors and and 45 minors for undergraduates, as well as several pre-professional programs, make George Fox a significant force for career education in Oregon, but their adult degree-completion have also made major contributions for working, non-traditional students.
While only around 5% of students actually belong to the Society of Friends (Quaker), George Fox University is nevertheless one of the most significant Quacker institutions in the world. Still affiliated with the Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends, George Fox is the annual meeting place of Quaker groups in the Pacific Northwest, and their Center for Peace and Justice is one of the nation’s leading research centers for non-violence advocacy. George Fox University’s membership in the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities provides students with extensive study abroad opportunities, and the university has been commended for the high proportion of students who take part in study abroad.
University of Oregon
Oregon’s flagship institution, the University of Oregon is a top-tier, public research university. Founded in 1876, U of O was a major factor in helping the newly-established state grow and develop from a rugged territory into a modern state, from business and education to medicine and law. With its location in the Willamette Valley, its campus along the Willamette River, UO is deeply entrenched in the life of Oregon, not only educating many of the state’s leaders (including governors, senators, and representatives), but taking part in Oregon’s environmental and economic life as well, as a major contributor to sustainability research and business culture.
The University of Oregon is as diverse as the state, with more than a quarter of students coming from ethnic minorities, while a quarter of all students are first-generation college students. Small class sizes and a favorable student:faculty ratio keep Oregon students supported, and an 87% freshman retention rate proves it. UO is central to cultural events in Oregon, including the Oregon Bach Festival, one of the most prestigious international music events in the US. With half of UO’s alumni staying in Oregon, the university gives Oregon graduates a wide and committed network for job market success.
Oregon State University
The largest public university in the state, Oregon State University is Oregon’s land-grant institution, founded in 1868 to bring the most current learning and research in agriculture and applied science of the day to the developing state. Today Oregon State is not only a land-grant, but also a sea, space, and sun-grant institution, engaging in world-class research in every area of science, engineering, and other fields. U.S. News & World Report ranks OSU as one of the 75 top public universities in the nation, while OSU’s Environmental Science and Engineering, agriculture, and forestry programs rank as some of the best in the world.
Oregon State’s commitment to student support has made it one of the Pacific Northwest’s most desirable institutions, not only on campus, but online; U.S. News & World Report has named OSU one of the top 10 online educators in the nation, offering more than 40 fully online degree programs. OSU has also been a significant part of Oregon’s growth into a tech hub, with its top-tier engineering programs drawing some of the most talented students, who have gone on to launch important entrepreneurial start-ups throughout the region. Corvallis is also known as one of America’s most-loved college towns.